We know prayer is important. We know we should pray. But it’s so easy to just … not. With busy schedules and a million distractions, prayer can be the first thing to fall off our radar. But we can’t have a relationship with God without prayer. We can’t live our faith without prayer. So if we want to make God a priority, we need to make prayer a priority. Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft has some advice for us:
“The single most important piece of advice about prayer is one word: Begin!”
The best way to make prayer a part of your life is to make it a part of your daily routine. Make it as natural and integral as brushing your teeth. Below are some tips to get you started:
Have a plan. Figure out a time and place that you will pray each day. Maybe it’s while you drink your morning coffee, on your commute, your lunch break, your child’s nap time, or right before bed. Find spaces in your day that offer the opportunity to connect with God, and commit to filling it up with prayer. If you can’t find space in your day, figure out what you need to sacrifice in order to make prayer a priority.
Know yourself. The best plans will fall apart if you don’t keep in mind your strengths and weaknesses. If you commit to waking up early to pray but you have a habit of hitting the snooze button, you’re likely to snooze through your prayer time. So choose a time when you are more likely to be awake and present for prayer. If you commit to pray the Rosary each day but it seems like a drudgery, then you’re likely to view prayer as something you have to just get through rather than something you look forward to. So don’t just choose a devotion because other people are doing it, choose a devotion you truly enjoy.
Use technology. Technology can definitely distract us from prayer, with e-mails, text messages, and social media calling for our attention at all hours. But it can also be a great tool for your prayer life. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you of your prayer time. Download a Catholic prayer app so you have your prayers right at your fingertips (here are some suggestions). Download the Immaculate Heart Radio app and pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet along with us (see schedule) or listen to Immaculate Heart Sacred Music to create a peaceful, prayerful environment.
Be open to change. Once you’re in a nice groove with your daily prayer, life changes can still throw you off. Work and family obligations can disrupt your prayer life, but they don’t have to dismantle it. If your prayer routine is thrown off, then simply create a new routine. For example, if you’re in the habit of going to daily Mass in the morning but a new job makes that impossible, create a new habit of stopping by an adoration chapel before or after work. Life changes, and it’s OK if your prayer life changes with it, as long as you don’t lose your commitment to daily prayer.
Avoid discouragement. There are bound to be times when you miss or choose to skip your daily prayer. Don’t give in to the temptation of thinking that daily prayer is too hard, or you’re not holy enough to do it. Even if it’s been weeks, months, or years since you last prayed, choose today to start again. If you are feeling discouraged, remember these words from St. Francis de Sales:
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.”
Remember – it’s a relationship. Prayer is not something to simply check off your to-do list, like doing the laundry or getting your oil changed. It’s a relationship with the living God. So rather than just going through the motions, try to truly connect with God each day. Listen to Him as much as you talk to Him. Continue praying outside of your designated prayer time by being grateful for a beautiful sunset or asking Him for help in a moment of stress or anger. In heaven we will see God face to face, so connecting with God in prayer is like a preview of heaven. Who would want to miss a single day of that?